- Assets: $317,927 (2014)
- Grants Received: $265,179 (2014)
- Grants Awarded: $15,150 (2014)
Established in 2001, the Progress Unity Fund (PUF) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is “to help break down the barriers of divisiveness and discrimination that exist in the world, and replace them with a sense of solidarity.” These barriers, says PUF, “may be legal, social, economic, or political,” and “may have been created along lines of class, race, gender, or ethnicity.” According to its IRS filings, PUF seeks to “provide a progressive alternative to mainstream charities.”
In pursuit of the foregoing objectives, PUF provides funding and sponsorship for various programs, public forums, and the production and dissemination of educational materials. The major issues of concern to PUF are the following:
* Economic Justice: PUF deplores “socio-economic inequality” on the premise that it creates “real barriers” that prevent “working-class communities” and “poor people of color” from being able to “live with dignity,” “pursue their aspirations,” and “achieve their full potential.” The root causes of inequality in the U.S., says the Fund, include “racism and other divisive ideology”; the “prison-industrial complex” that allegedly targets and exploits nonwhites; and the “difficulties” that “poor and working people” face when trying to gain “access to education.”
* International Solidarity: PUF supports efforts in countries around the world to “overcome violent conflict, advance economic development, build real and meaningful independence, and forge solidarity among nations.” Specifically, the Fund has sponsored educational projects in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
* Labor Issues: Committed to promoting the spread of unionization, PUF was particularly active in organizing workshops and speaking engagements that featured participants from the Wisconsin labor struggle of 2011. At issue, there, was the fact that Wisconsin’s new governor, Republican Scott Walker—whom voters, in a repudiation of the previous administration’s spendthrift ways, had elected on a highly publicized, popular austerity platform—was trying to balance his state’s projected $3.6 billion budget deficit by asking public-sector union workers to pay slightly more toward their own pensions and healthcare benefits. In response to Walker’s efforts, labor unions poured thousands of people and millions of dollars into recall efforts designed to remove Walker from office; those efforts were unsuccessful.
* Immigrant Rights: Lamenting that immigrants in the United States “face special forms of oppression” and “are often deprived of basic rights and liberties,” PUF supports projects aimed at informing the public about allegedly unjust deportation laws that are “tearing apart” immigrant families. Further, the Fund has: (a) condemned “anti-immigrant” measures such as Arizona’s SB 1070, a 2010 law that deputized state police to check with federal authorities on the immigration status of criminal suspects; (b) opposed the “Secure Communities” program, whereby ICE and the FBI can share information that helps them identify criminal aliens who are deportable under immigration law; and (c) denounced the “campaign of disinformation” being waged by “anti-immigrant groups” such as the Minuteman Project.
* Veterans and Active-Duty Soldiers: PUF participates in efforts to help military veterans navigate through “the cumbersome and complex system [of] benefits set up by the Veterans Affairs Administration.” Moreover, the Fund sponsors speaking tours and public meetings where veterans and active-duty soldiers alike reprehend the terrible “impact of ongoing U.S. wars and occupations.”
For information on past PUF projects, click here.
PUF has close ties to the Workers World Party (WWP), the Marxist-Leninist vanguard that guides Ramsey Clark’s International Action Center (IAC) and its affiliated International ANSWER coalition. PUF’s co-directors—Brenda Sandburg, Keith Pavlik, and Rosa Penate—are WWP members who have written for the Party’s weekly newspaper, Workers World. Another of PUF’s principal employees, Muna Coobtee, is a steering-committee member of ANSWER’s Los Angeles chapter. Coobtee is also affiliated with the Free Palestine Alliance, the ANSWER coalition’s Palestinian constituency.
PUF claims to have “helped found” International ANSWER in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, to “promote a peaceful alternative to racism and war.” The Fund also serves as ANSWER’s “fiscal sponsor.” Credit-card and check donations to ANSWER are made payable to PUF, whose tax-exempt status allows the donors to claim tax deductions on their contributions.
Since its inception, PUF has made ANSWER and IAC the major beneficiaries of its philanthropy. Between September 2001 and May 2006, for example, the Fund gave a total of $147,987 to ANSWER. Of the $270,000 in grants that PUF subsequently issued in 2007, almost $230,000 went to ANSWER regional chapters. And in 2008, more than $80,000 of the $140,000 in grants awarded by PUF were likewise earmarked for ANSWER.
At one time, PUF’s Mission Street address in San Francisco was identical to that of the International Action Center’s West Coast branch office—meaning that an activist organization (IAC) was sharing office space with its principal benefactor.